Denmark assures no PCBs in scrapping row ships
by Rajesh Joshi, Lloyd’s List
1 September 2009 (New York) – The government of Denmark has allayed fears that two former US-flag ships at the centre of a toxic ship-scrapping row would contain unacceptable levels of polychlorinated biphenyls.
US Environmental Protection Agency said Star Maritime, the new owner, has provided “detailed information regarding expenditures and plans related to the future use of these ships as cargo vessels”, which has satisfied EPA that the ships would not be scrapped in a foreign country.
The latest move in the game of regulatory shufflepuck leaves the spotlight on Star, as the ships begin life under the St Kitts & Nevis flag and the new names Anders and Bonny.
In a statement made available to Lloyd’s List, EPA spokesperson Terri White said the EPA gave serious consideration to concerns that the ships may contain PCBs and that Star would scrap them in an open, if legitimate, circumvention of US policy.
The EPA statement said: “These ships are cargo ships built in Denmark in 1979-80.
“In July 2009, EPA contacted the Danish government concerning PCBs in Danish-built ships, and was advised that PCB-containing materials should not have been used when these ships were built.
“Danish law prohibited the ‘open application’ of PCBs in 1977, which would include the typical uses of PCBs in ships such as cables, gaskets, paints, etc.”
However, the matter might not go away that easily. Ecological group, the Basel Action Network, has already cast doubt over the Danish argument in a letter sent to the EPA on August 26.
Denmark did not ban the use of PCBs until 1986, the BAN letter has claimed, citing a “working document” created in 2001 by the Helsinki Commission.
The EPA statement added that the US Military Sealift Command retrofitted the two ships as supply ships in 1982. Since the US banned PCBs in 1978, such substances could not have crept into the ships in 1982 or during their military charters, the EPA argued.
The ship’s technical manager and owner representatives have indicated their intention of using the duo as cargo ships, the statement said.
The EPA added: “Based on available information, including lack of evidence that these ships are likely to contain PCBs, EPA has determined that there is not a sufficient basis to detain them or take other legal action at this time.
“EPA will continue to monitor the situation with these two ships and will consider any new information we discover.”
The EPA sent a letter to Star on July 31, notifying the owner that scrapping of the ships might construe a violation of the US Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976.
The Anders left Norfolk last week with Santos as the reported destination, while the Bonny was still in the US last night as per Lloyd’s Marine Intelligence Unit data.
The two ships, formerly owned by Wilmington Trust and chartered to the MSC were previously named PFC James Anderson and 1st Lt Alex Bonnyman, under US flag.
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